Jonathan Chao and “Return Mission”: The case of the Calvinist revival in China

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Studies on mission and migration have often focused on the propagation of Christianity from a home context to a foreign context. This is true of studies of Christian mission by Catholics and Protestants, but also true in the growing discussion of “reverse mission” whereby diasporic African and Korean missionaries evangelize the “heathen” lands of Europe and North America. This article proposes the alternative term “return mission” in which Christians from the diaspora return to evangelize the lands of their ancestral origins. It uses the case study of Jonathan Chao (Zhao Tian’en 趙天恩), a return missionary who traveled in and out of China from 1978 until near his death in 2004 and is considered an instrumental figure in the revival of Calvinism in China. This article suggests that “return mission” provides a new means to understand the subjects of mission and migration, and raises new challenges to questions about paternalism and independency.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 442–457
JournalMission Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2019


  • Jonathan Chao
  • Calvinism
  • Chinese Christianity
  • diaspora
  • house church
  • Neo-Calvinism
  • return mission
  • reverse mission


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